ABSENCE OF BULLOCK AND WILCOX NOTICEABLE
Eric Patten, Clippers.com
LAS VEGAS – Perhaps the biggest benefit for teams in their nearly two-week trek to the desert for Summer League is the opportunity for young players already on a roster to gain experience.
Teams like the Sacramento Kings or Utah Jazz have as many as six roster players in Vegas, and a year ago the Clippers used the time to give first-round pick Reggie Bullock a chance to learn their system and get a brief taste of professional basketball.
This year, with Bullock and 2014 first rounder C.J. Wilcox both sidelined due to injury, is different for the Clippers. Their 12-man roster consists of seven players with previous NBA experience and five rookie free agents. None of them are members of the regular-season roster.
The absence of Bullock, who is sitting out while he rehabs right quad soreness, and Wilcox, who has an injured right shoulder, is noticeable.
“It’d be great to have them here, not so we can win a game, but obviously C.J. hasn’t played pro basketball yet so it would be great to have him out here getting some experience,” Clippers Summer League coach Brendan O’Connor said. “The same thing with Reggie. He didn’t play a ton of minutes last year so it’d be great to have him getting some action out there.
It’s not about the final score so much as getting those guys some experience.”
O’Connor said the biggest thing that Wilcox could be learning is the Clippers’ regular-season terminology and coverages. But there is plenty more.
“It’s just the experience of playing,” O’Connor added. “There are different rules. The 3-point line is a little further back. For C.J., that’s a huge thing. We know he has that range, but it’s a little different when you’re stepping up to that line instead of the college line.”
The Clippers loss to the Bulls in their Summer League opener was another example of where Wilcox could have gained on-court experience. Second-year guard Tony Snell scored a game-high 27 points for Chicago, Wilcox would likely have been tasked with guarding him.
“He probably would’ve guarded Doug McDermott or Tony Snell, and you saw what he did to us,” O’Connor said. “That would have been a good experience for him because with the rules the way they are he hasn’t had to guard guys in that scenario.”
Similarly, Bullock, who averaged 18.0 points in five Summer League games last summer, could have been in position like Snell, a player picked five spots ahead of him in the 2013 Draft. He would have been the go-to scorer/shooter and Clippers veteran, having spent a year in the system. It also would have been a chance to erase a year that O’Connor admitted was “frustrating” after Bullock went down with severely sprained ankle in December.
“I still think he got a lot out of it, but when he got hurt, if you remember, he was really starting to play more and get confidence,” O’Connor said of Bullock. “That’s the same thing, if you play out here. Maybe it goes great, maybe they struggle a little bit. But it’s kind of like getting their feet wet. So, the experience is there and then it really is amazing how much further ahead they can be.”
Bullock exuded that a year ago, when he entered camp with a newfound confidence as a shooter and better understanding of the uptick in speed of the NBA game. Now, he and Wilcox are resigned to watching from home.